October 19, 2011

Made It Moment: Scott Armstrong

Filed under: Made It Moments — jenny @ 11:35 am

Russian Snows

I love stories of writing where the family enters in. Author Shawn Lamb has one, and so does today’s guest, Scott Armstrong, who appears on the very day of the publication of his first novel. “What a difference a year makes,” Scott says in his Moment, and boy, do I know what he means. To see what happened between then and now for Scott, please read on.

Scott Armstrong

My first novel, Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army, is being self-published today, October 19, on the 199th anniversary of Napoleon’s departure from Moscow to begin the long retreat home.  The story of how I got to this “Made it Moment” is one that I could not have imagined a year ago.

As a history major in college, people assumed I either wanted to be a teacher or a writer.  I ended up being an accountant.  Fast forward many years, to late September of 2010.  During a casual dinner conversation, my teenage daughter, the real writer in our family, mentioned that NaNoWriMo was getting close.  Writing a 50,000 word novel in November sounded like fun and something my daughter and I could do together as writing buddies.  I signed up and started to think about a topic.

Ever since doing a report in college on Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Moscow in 1812, I’d been intrigued by this tragic event.  I decided I would write an adventure story centered around the invasion with a boy as the main character and hoped I could read it to my son one day.  That was as far as I thought it would go.

On November 1, 2010 my daughter and I embarked on our race to 50k.  Word counts were tracked on the refrigerator and were a nightly topic of discussion.  Writing enough words was not a problem.  In fact, when November ended and the NaNo win was secured, my story was only half finished.

My wife, Sandie, read the manuscript and said it was really good.  Surprised and encouraged, I finished the story, by then over 115,000 words, just in time to enter the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Award (ABNA) contest in the Young Adult category.  Out of a possible 5,000 entrants, mine made it to the top 250.  Based on the Publishers Weekly review and the advice of some writer friends, I trimmed the manuscript back down to 51,000 words to better match my middle grade reader audience.

There have been many little “Made it Moments” along the way, like typing the 50,000th word in November for NaNo, seeing my name on the list of ABNA quarter finalists, sending the file to Create Space to get the first proof, and holding a printed copy in my hand.  What a difference a year can make!

Russian Snows: Coming of Age in Napoleon’s Army is available on Amazon in print and ebook form and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook.  Visit http://www.RussianSnows.com for more information and follow Scott’s blog on the Russian Campaign at http://www.Napoleon1812.wordpress.com.

Scott’s love of history dates to an early age as he grew up doing Revolutionary War reenacting with his father, something he continues to this day.

Scott met his wife while reenacting the siege of Savannah. They later participated in a parade in Paris on the Champs Elysées celebrating the treaty of Paris which ended the American Revolution.

Scott no longer works as an accountant, but publishes a local family events magazine called Parents’ Source.


  1. What a great beginning for your novel to make it into the top 250 of Amazon’s breakthrough novels. Well done. hope it heralds a fruitful writing career…

    Comment by Niamh Clune — October 19, 2011 @ 11:45 am

  2. Very interesting! I’m going to forward this to my wife. I think she might be very interested in this.

    Comment by Gary Hoover — October 19, 2011 @ 11:46 am

  3. Scott,
    I was so honored to be chosen by you to be one of the lucky few who got to read your novel in it’s entirity, before you had to trim it down. Your details made me feel like I was really there. Henri is an amazing character. By the end of the story I was thoroughly entwined in his life and now you have to write a sequel so I know what becomes of him!

    Comment by Cindy Trainor — October 19, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

  4. Very interesting! I love history and have been reading up on European wars, I think this sounds like a great read.

    Comment by Janice Cantore — October 19, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

  5. Thank you for all of the great comments! There will be a sequel that includes many of the same characters from Russian Snows. The story will be about the rest of Europe closing in on France after the disastrous Russian Campaign. I’ll start writing the sequel during National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which begins November 1.

    Comment by Scott Armstrong — October 19, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  6. Congrats Scott! It is very exciting to have watched Russian Snows evolve from the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest last Spring to where it is now. I read somewhere that the primary ingredients required to build a successful writer is talent and perseverance. Russian Snows demonstrates both. Congratulations again.

    Comment by Steve Linstrom — October 19, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

  7. What a great story Scott! My son also started writing as a way to stay in contact with his daughters, and now has 20 books (although we’ve only managed to get one published so far). It’s inspiring to see someone go from zero writing to ABNA quarterfinals in a year! Great job and I wish you continued good luck with your book!!

    Comment by mountainmama — October 19, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

  8. Great story, Scott. I love how your book evolved from a story to read to your son to the Amazon Breakthrough Novelist Contest. You should be very proud of your achievement.

    Comment by Nancy Morse — October 19, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  9. Congratulations, Scott. You are lucky to have a daughter to write with. It sounds like a n interesting book.

    Comment by Lisa wharton — October 19, 2011 @ 3:44 pm

  10. This book sounds amazing – right up my alley. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!

    Comment by Alison DeLuca — October 20, 2011 @ 9:45 am

  11. Wonderful story, Scott.

    Great Made It Moment, Jenny! I’ve tweeted!

    Comment by Sandy — October 20, 2011 @ 10:14 am

  12. I highly recommend THE PASSION by Jeanette Winterson: one of my favorite novels, also about a young man facing the Russian snows. He decides to desert the army and heads for Venice with a mysterious young woman. And what an evocative background for a novel! I hope you have lots of success. I will be looking you up for my e-purchases.

    Comment by Savvy — October 20, 2011 @ 11:37 am

  13. Scott, that is really cool that writing with your daughter sparked you to finish what you started so long ago. Well done.

    Comment by Jeff Dawson — October 20, 2011 @ 8:51 pm

  14. Scott, I cannot download your Kindle edition onto my iPhone. Would you be willing to query Kindle about the issue? I’ve not had a problem downloading a book before. Just thought I’d let you know. Sorry!

    Comment by Savvy — October 21, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

  15. Savvy – I’ll see what I can do with Kindle and let you know. Can you give me some specifics I can pass on to them?

    Comment by Scott Armstrong — October 21, 2011 @ 2:11 pm

  16. Savvy – I checked the online Kindle discussion and someone talked about devices being registered which you probably already are since you did this before. Another poster suggested checking the Kindle archive.
    I’ll approach Kindle directly if you give me more specifics. I can be reached at ScottArmstrong@RussianSnows.com.

    Comment by Scott Armstrong — October 21, 2011 @ 2:26 pm

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